Following on from yesterday’s resignation of one of the four Conservatives on the joint UUP-Conservative committee tasked with overseeing the two parties’ electoral alliance, the UUP leader, Sir Reg Empey, has made an intervention that will surely unnerve many Conservatives.
Writing in the News Letter, the Northern Irish newspaper read most widely among the unionist community, this is what he has to say about the Conservative Party:
"I think it needs to be borne in mind that the present Conservative
Party is no longer a right-wing party in any real sense of that term.
On a number of issues it is clearly to the left of Labour."
He makes this assertion in relation to David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith’s policies to mend Britain’s "broken society".
Sir Reg is correct to suggest that those policies will indeed offer hope and help to working class voters in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
But I would venture that his choice of terminology – designed, I imagine, to placate Labour sympathisers in the UUP – is clumsy, incorrect and unhelpful in equal measures.
It’s a shame, since most of the rest of his article is absolutely spot on in its promotion of the new political force as an opportunity to "put Northern Ireland at the very heart of UK politics".
A campaign director for the new force will be appointed shortly – and the sooner he or she is in place the better. Hopefully that will ensure a more joined-up approach and avoid this kind of political mistake.